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Posted: May 26, 2009

'Stand Up To Cancer' initiative awards $73.6 million for novel, groundbreaking cancer research

(Nanowerk News) Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), the Entertainment Industry Foundation's charitable initiative supporting groundbreaking research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients in an accelerated timeframe, has reached a significant milestone, awarding the first round of three-year grants - that total $73.6 million - to five multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional research Dream Teams. The majority of these funds were raised in connection with an SU2C telecast on September 5, 2008 that aired simultaneously on the ABC, CBS and NBC networks. Today's announcement comes on the one-year anniversary of the launch of Stand Up To Cancer. SU2C's next round of funding - Innovative Research Grants for individual investigators - will be announced later this year.
"Recent advancements in basic science and in technologies have placed us on the cusp of important discoveries that can revolutionize the fight against cancer," said Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and David H. Koch Institute at MIT. Sharp chairs the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) assembled by SU2C's scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), that reviewed Dream Team applications and made recommendations on funding to SU2C's Management Committee. "SU2C aims to capitalize on that progress and is pushing it forward at what will be an extraordinarily quick pace. The Dream Teams bring together leading laboratory scientists and physicians, collaborating in ways that are unprecedented with a laser-like focus on research that has enormous potential to help patients and save lives. The Stand Up To Cancer model could very well change the face of cancer."
Five SU2C Dream Team Grants
Each Dream Team's project, funded for three years pending satisfactory achievement of stated milestones, is "translational" in nature, geared toward moving science from "bench to bedside" where it can benefit patients as quickly as possible. SU2C's distinctive funding model was specifically designed to eliminate barriers that can inhibit creativity and collaboration, in part, by enabling scientists with different expertise from different institutions across the country - and in some cases, internationally - to work together. The five Dream Teams are comprised of 7 leaders, 4 co-leaders and 27 principal researchers from over 20 leading institutions, with more than 300 individuals participating in total. Each team will have at least two members from patient advocacy groups to ensure that the perspective of the patients and survivors they represent will be integrated into the research on an ongoing basis.
The teams are listed below in alphabetical order according to the name of the leaders, and they will pursue the following important topics (full list of team members can be found at www.su2c.org):
  • "Bringing Epigenetic Therapy to the Forefront of Cancer Management" / Leader: Stephen B. Baylin, M.D., Deputy Director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins; Co-Leader: Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Urology and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Southern California;
  • "Targeting the PI3K Pathway in Women's Cancers" / Leader: Lewis C. Cantley, Ph.D., Chief of the Division of Signal Transduction at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Co-Leaders: Charles L. Sawyers, M.D., Director of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Gordon B. Mills, M.D., Ph.D., Chair, Department of Systems Biology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center;
  • "An Integrated Approach to Targeting Molecular Breast Cancer Molecular Subtypes and Their 'Resistance' Phenotypes" / Leaders: Joe W. Gray, Ph.D., Life Sciences Division Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Dennis J. Slamon, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Clinical/Translational Research at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center;
  • "Bioengineering and Clinical Applications of Circulating Tumor Cells Chip" / Leader: Daniel A. Haber, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center; Co-Leader: Mehmet Toner, Ph.D., Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Harvard Medical School; and
  • "Cutting off the Fuel Supply: A New Approach to the Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer" / Leaders: Craig B. Thompson, M.D., Director, Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and Daniel D. Von Hoff, M.D., Senior Investigator and Physician in Chief at the Translational Research Genomics Institute (TGen).
  • The projects address some of the most critical and promising areas of cancer research today. They will enable scientists to gain new understanding of the molecular pathways and genetic mutations that contribute to the causes of many cancers; to apply nanotechnology to isolate and analyze circulating tumor cells; to explore imaging approaches that could lead to "starving" tumors; to leverage the growing understanding of epigenetics to design targeted anticancer agents; and to explore new approaches to treating breast cancers, especially those resistant to current therapies. This unique translational research model focuses on the disease, drug targets and clinical development, combining research and clinical applications that have extraordinary potential for patients.
    "For people struggling with this disease, or many of the 1.4 million Americans who will be diagnosed this year, scientific breakthroughs can literally be a matter of life or death," said Laura Ziskin, executive producer of the September 5th, 2008 broadcast, who is a cancer survivor and a member of the SU2C Executive Leadership Council (ELC). "Every single minute of every single day, we lose someone to cancer in this country. We urgently need more and better treatments, and we need everyone to support the scientists who are working so hard to develop more effective treatments. That, in a nutshell, is what Stand Up To Cancer is trying to facilitate."
    Collectively, the research that will be done through the Dream Team projects could impact the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of cancers in adults and children across ethnicities including, but not limited to pancreatic, breast, ovarian, cervical, uterine, brain, lung, prostate, rectal and colon, which represent two thirds of all U.S. cancer deaths. (562,340 people are expected to die of cancer in the United States this year.) In the U.S. alone, one out of three women and one out of two men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. Worldwide, cancer kills almost eight million people annually.
    The combined award of $73.6 million fulfills one of Stand Up To Cancer's key objectives: to assure that these translational research Dream Teams receive sufficient funding to see results within the three-year term of the grants.
    On behalf of Stand Up To Cancer, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will be responsible for administering the grants, including distributing the funds to the Dream Team leaders' institutions, developing methods of reporting and providing scientific oversight through program management and evaluation of progress during the funding period. AACR and the Scientific Advisory Committee will conduct periodic reviews to ensure that milestones and objectives are being satisfactorily achieved. Stand Up To Cancer is committed to ensuring that the funding process, as well as the outcomes of the projects, are transparent and that progress reports are made available to the public at www.su2c.org and www.aacr.org.
    "The response of the scientific community to Stand Up To Cancer has been extraordinary," said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), CEO of AACR. "It has been truly amazing to watch this bold new funding model, which was introduced just one year ago, grow into an unprecedented opportunity to move research forward for the benefit of cancer patients. The dedication and time commitment of our highly expert SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee have been quite remarkable and far beyond what is normally expected in a more standard research grant review process. Each and every one of AACR's 28,000 members is very proud to be a part of this significant and exhilarating undertaking in cancer research, which will help us accelerate our mission of curing cancer at the earliest possible time."
    Dream Teams Selected Through Rigorous and Transparent Process
    The Dream Team selection process began in July 2008 when AACR issued a call for research ideas. In response, Stand Up To Cancer received 237 submissions, representing thousands of researchers. All submissions were reviewed by the 20-member Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), which includes highly accomplished basic scientists, physicians and patient advocates, chaired by Nobel Laureate Dr. Phillip A. Sharp and co-chaired by Drs. Arnold J. Levine and Brian J. Druker. The field was narrowed to 25 groups, then 16 and then eight. At that point, finalists were invited to submit full-blown research proposals.
    The leaders of each of the eight finalist teams met in-person with the SAC to present the plans for their research, and respond to questions about their projects - a level of interaction between applicants and reviewers that is unique in a scientific review process. The SAC made recommendations for the further development of proposals, where needed, and in two instances (in pancreatic cancer and breast cancer) where two teams proposed related approaches to research, the SAC suggested that the teams combine their proposals to create the strongest potential for producing optimal research results.
    The SAC's recommendations were reviewed and accepted by SU2C's Management Committee, and were then approved by the Entertainment Industry Foundation's (EIF) Board of Directors. Stand Up To Cancer is a program of EIF, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that serves as a collective charitable organization for the television and film businesses. [A full list of SAC members can be found at www.su2c.org.]
    SU2C As a Movement
    "Stand Up To Cancer grew from two simple constructs: scientists need more money for research and easier ways to work together; and the entertainment industry has unique resources that can be called upon to help make every American aware that each and every one of us has a role to play in advancing cancer research," said Sherry Lansing, EIF Board Chair and a member of the SU2C Executive Leadership Council (ELC). "From the person who can give five dollars to the philanthropist who can give millions, we are all connected to the devastation that cancer causes in our families, and together, we can Stand Up to end it."
    Whether through providing in-kind services or mobilizing an array of organizations and individuals to build awareness and generate contributions, the entertainment industry is working to rally the public to Stand Up To Cancer. "Today is Stand Up To Cancer's first birthday, and it's thrilling to announce that all these incredible researchers are about to collaborate on five projects that have so much potential to reduce the suffering caused by this insidious disease," said EIF CEO Lisa Paulsen, also a member of the SU2C ELC. "We are enormously grateful to CBS, ABC and NBC for donating the time for last year's telecast, which was the catalyst that set all of this in motion, and to the 100 celebrities who volunteered their time to help get people involved."
    Stand Up To Cancer Innovative Research Grants Fund Early Career Scientists
    The SU2C Innovative Research Grants are an effort to support the next generation of extraordinary leaders in their quest to conquer cancer. These grants will provide up to $750,000 over a three-year term, and will be awarded to early-career scientists whose novel, high-risk, high-reward research proposals have significant potential for translational application, but are often not funded by conventional sources. 415 grant applications have been received, and it is anticipated that in this first round of Innovative Research Grants, 10 to 12 will be awarded later this year.
    Stand Up To Cancer Garners Broad Support
    Major League Baseball was the first major donor to contribute to Stand Up To Cancer. "Baseball is an integral part of our country's heritage, and it has been a privilege for Major League Baseball to join the Stand Up To Cancer community to help fight a disease that has in some way affected virtually every family in our country," said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. "We encourage our fans to get involved, to Stand Up and to become part of this groundbreaking effort to stop cancer."
    Sidney Kimmel, the country's largest individual supporter of cancer research, who pledged $25 million to SU2C during last year's telecast, said, "SU2C's intense, goal-directed, team-oriented approach is the next, most important step in the evolution of cancer research. If the Dream Teams produce tangible results over these next three years, the Stand Up To Cancer research model will be a paradigm shift on how cancer research is funded and conducted."
    Other major SU2C supporters include Amgen, AARP, Bloomberg Philanthropies, GlaxoSmithKline, Revlon, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Wallis Annenberg & The Annenberg Foundation, Alliance for Global Good, New York Giants, Milken Family Foundation, Philips Electronics, Steve Tisch, The Island Def Jam Music Group and many others. In addition to ABC, CBS and NBC, SU2C major media partners include AOL, Conde Nast Media Group, eBay Inc., Facebook, Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., Hearst Corporation, Los Angeles Times, Meredith Corporation, The New York Times Company, Time Inc. and WebMD.
    Individuals Participate in SU2C Through Online Community and Grassroots Activities
    SU2C's robust online community, at www.SU2C.org, offers various ways for people to share opinions and support, view video updates, contribute, and learn of ongoing initiatives and progress in the fight against cancer. The scope of donation opportunities on the SU2C website ranges from naming a star in honor of a loved one to web team challenges that encourage collaborative fundraising efforts by groups of various sizes all over the country. A novel Facebook application enables users to share their personal connections to cancer. The online community provides ample opportunity to share SU2C's efforts via a variety of social media outlets, including Twitter, Facebook, AOL, MySpace, YouTube, flickr and several other sites that are accessible through the SU2C website. SU2C is implementing ongoing grassroots and community efforts, and is participating in national and regional events to raise awareness and funds.
    About the Stand Up To Cancer Initiative
    The Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) movement raises funds to hasten the pace of groundbreaking translational research that can get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives. In the Fall of 2007, a group of women whose lives have all been affected by cancer in profound ways began working together to marshal the resources of the media and entertainment industries in the fight against the disease. The SU2C Executive Leadership Council (ELC) includes Laura Ziskin, executive producer of the September 5th broadcast, who is a cancer survivor; Sherry Lansing, who is the Chairperson of the Entertainment Industry Foundation's Board of Directors and founder of the Sherry Lansing Foundation; EIF President and CEO Lisa Paulsen; Katie Couric; Noreen Fraser, founder of the Noreen Fraser Foundation (NFF) and a cancer survivor; EIF Vice President Kathleen Lobb; Rusty Robertson and Sue Schwartz of the Robertson Schwartz Agency; and nonprofit executive Ellen Ziffren. Representatives of 24 patient advocacy groups are members of SU2C's Advocate Advisory Council. SU2C was formally launched on May 27, 2008.
    Source: Stand Up To Cancer